Blogs by Andy Parker
Russian Spy Scandal...
7/6/2010 8:05:47 AM
You won't catch the Chinese messing around like this...
What a delectably retro spy scandal has emerged in America. In these days of hi-tech cyber-warfare which no one understands, itís nice to see that the old-fashioned suborning of agents is still going on, and that, in suburban gardens in the penumbra of Washington DC, respectable bourgeois couples are beavering away on behalf of the Kremlin.
The most interesting aspect of this affair Ė for surely there canít be much valuable information deriving from it which couldnít be acquired in a thousand easier ways Ė is the timing of the revelations. Presidents Obama and Medvedev have been making quite an effort to build up a constructive relationship; surely they donít want this raining on their parade? Possibly the Americans are making the point that, if the Russians are serious about genuinely better relations, they might start by putting a stop to the silly stuff.
And, just possibly, itís an attempt to foment divisions within the Russian government. It is generally believed that Prime Minister Putin, KGB to his fingertips, is the main moving force behind what Le Carrť used to call the espiocrats. Perhaps the US hope that by calling attention to the fandango they will embarrass Putin in front of Medvedev and thus weaken the formerís position? If so, it suggests a rather simplistic assessment of the balance of personalities and forces within Russia.
Probably the real reason is that the old espiocrats just canít leave it alone. They have budgets to defend, after all. I have no idea what our own spies do or donít do, if we have any that is, and I wouldnít reveal it if I had, but I rather have the impression that we havenít really got over 1989 either. Thereís still this obsession with whoís sleeping with whom, although the old honeytrap-and-blackmail trick hasnít been successfully pulled for twenty years. The Rules of the Game have been laid down, and thousands of people live by them, and nobody wants to rock the boat.
There is, of course, such a thing as dropping your guard too quickly. Itís a delicious irony that, while all this old-fashioned cultivating of moles and counter-moles was going forward, a girl called Anna Chapman (nťe Kushchenko), daughter of a mysterious Russian diplomat in Zimbabwe, was able to gallivant to and fro across the Atlantic with wads of dubiously acquired wonga without anyone having the faintest suspicion that she might be some sort of Russian spy. Didnít the British High Commission in Harare spot her for Peteís sake? Or were they too busy not sleeping with people they shouldnít?
One hopes, though, that the old Game is being played in addition to, rather than instead of, the new Game, and that vigilance isnít dropping where the real business of espionage is going on. Because you can bet your bottom dollar, rouble or yuan that the Chinese donít arse around like this. They donít have to make sneaky payments in dead-letter drops to venal suburbanites. They send over tens of thousands of sharp young computer whizzes every year, every one a fervent patriot, whatever passport he or she may carry. I hope we donít have all our guns pointing in the wrong direction, like Singapore in 1942.
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